Focus on North East ports: Chief executives outline their plans

Coreena Ford asks the chief executives of North East ports to outline their plans for the years to come

Port of Tyne
Port of Tyne

Their history dating back centuries, the activities of the North East ports are intricately woven into the fabric of our heritage. Over time they have had to adapt, yet as the next three pages ably demonstrate they haven’t just survived – they have thrived. Collectively handling more than 48 million tonnes of cargo a year, our five ports are involved in myriad business streams, aiding our impeccable record as the only UK region with a positive balance of trade.

Coreena Ford asks their chief executives to outline their plans for the years to come.

Lib - Port of Tyne Chief Executive Andrew Moffat.

Port of Tyne

Size: 613 acres of land

Up to 13 metres of water is available at Riverside Quay (A minimum of 13 metres (lowest astronomical tide) of water is available at Tyne Bulk Terminal (up to 18.2m available at highest astronomical tide) and a min of 12.1m (lowest astronomical tide) at RSQ (17.3m at highest astronomical tide)

78,000 sq m of warehousing

3095m of potential berth space

Date founded: The Port of Tyne was constituted on June 28, 1968

Basic history: Traditionally, the Port of Tyne was famous for its coal exports, but the radical changes in the UK’s mining industry during the 1990s created an urgent need to diversify to remain viable. Today, the results of a decade of redevelopment and £120m investment has culminated in becoming the fastest-growing major port in the UK.

Employee numbers: As of December 31, 2013, there were 566 full-time equivalent staff

Main activities: The Port of Tyne is a vital cog in the economy of not just the region, but of the UK as a whole. It is a gateway to a world of trade and is a major link in keeping goods and prosperity moving around the country and the globe.

From bulk cargoes of renewable fuels to the shipping, storing and distribution of goods for a wealth of national and international companies, the port provides an ever-increasing range of services to help businesses grow, compete and succeed. The port’s five commercial business areas – bulk & conventional cargo, car terminals, cruise & ferries, logistics, and estates – its three rail terminals, its modern international cruise and passenger terminal building and its growing cruise business all add value to the North East region.

Bulk cargoes include coal, wood pellet, grain, scrap metals and steel, alongside large-scale special project cargoes – the port is the UK’s second largest coal handling port. The port’s Logistics Services include container shipping, warehousing and distribution, with feeder routes connecting to five continents. Container imports and exports of manufacturing parts, retail goods and recyclables make it one of the most efficient container terminals in the UK with an 80% ratio of full to empty containers. The Port of Tyne’s three car terminals support car manufacturers Nissan, Renault, VW and Audi. Its Estates business manages a substantial portfolio of commercial properties and land holdings.

Cargo volumes: In 2013 the River Tyne handled 8.1 million tonnes of cargo – the largest volume since 1965. This was a 22% increase on 2012.

Routes: The port is a gateway to five continents – a world of trade – and is a major link in keeping goods and prosperity moving around the country and globe. Port of Tyne provides connectivity to Felixstowe, Grangemouth, Rotterdam, Copenhagen, Helsingborg, Bremerhaven and St Petersburg.

Major customers: Operating in UK and worldwide markets, the port’s customers include companies in sectors across power generation, retail, automotive, tourism, manufacturing and recyclables.

Current turnover and profit: £73m

Andrew Moffatt, chief executive officer, Port of Tyne.

“The Port of Tyne has seen record growth in recent years and is currently the UK’s fastest-growing major port. That growth has been in the volumes of cargo and passengers, in turnover year on year and in increased investment in infrastructure. It’s estimated that around £13bn worth of goods cross over the Port of Tyne quays each year, and that includes about 60% of the total exports from the North East, contributing to its position as the only region with a net balance of trade.

“In 2013 the Port of Tyne handled over 8 million tonnes of cargo, which is the highest volume since 1965. Volumes of imported coal and wood pellet, both used as fuel by power stations, were at the highest level ever recorded. Over 640,000 vehicles were handled in the three car terminals, making Port of Tyne the UK’s number 1 for car exports and the seventh largest vehicle-handling port in Europe.

“The number of passengers using the port’s International Passenger Terminal at North Shields last year set new records for both the regular Amsterdam ferry route and for cruise passengers, over half of whom are coming into the region to spend time as tourists.

“In 2013 turnover increased by 16%, to £73m, but looking back over five years, it has nearly doubled. This is as a result of diversification into new business areas, continued investment of around £100m in infrastructure and, importantly, significant investment in the workforce, which has grown by over a quarter since 2009. Ports are a barometer of business, but also an enabler. To retain customers, capture new business and win business from other parts of the UK we have to continue to deliver true partnerships with our customers.

“The measure of the port’s impact in the region is through its contribution to the region’s Gross Value Added which was £507m last year – an increase of 38% since 2009. The number of jobs the port supports grew to 10,500. With investment of over £60m since 2009, the Port of Tyne is a much bigger business and now has 600 acres of land and over 3,000 metres of quays available for operational use. Our aim for the future is to ensure we continue to be a dynamic force for economic growth as we deliver a vibrant and sustainable Port of Tyne, built on our core values of customer, people and future focus. Our goal is to continue to enable and support the growth of the business, industry and trade of the region.

“We continue to develop new business in renewable energy with a £180m wood pellet project under way, and there are new opportunities which we are well placed to deliver. Other river-based businesses are seeing growth too, and we will continue to supply services that support their businesses.

“It gets harder each year to continually break your own records, but we believe our strategy of identifying the opportunities and what business needs, delivering in partnership and providing first-class customer service is a good recipe for success.”

Port of Blyth Chef Executive Martin Lawlor
Port of Blyth Chef Executive Martin Lawlor

Port of Blyth

Size: Berth depths of 10m at L.A.T.

Date founded : 1882

Basic history: Blyth was a major coal export terminal like most ports on the East Coast and the largest coal export terminal in Europe in the late 60s. 1970s-2000 Blyth was one of the main import terminals for paper into the UK and post-2000 has become a diversified port handling a wide range of cargo, with a twice-weekly container line, servicing the oil and gas and renewable energy markets.

Main activities: Marine services, cruises and ferries, cargo handling, warehousing. Transped is an international door-to-door logistics firm also providing export packing. Port Training Services is a leading national provider of port related-training. Main products imported through Blyth include forest products (paper, plywood, logs) and a range of bulk, project cargo and finished products.

Employee numbers: Around 110 employees rising to 150 with contract labour. Also supports thousands of jobs throughout South East Northumberland.

Main activities: Near completion of a marine fuel terminal

Cargo volumes: Total tonnage throughput 2013 1,711,000 tonnes

Routes: Twice-weekly container service to Rotterdam with onward deep sea link, plus strong links with Scandinavia and the Baltic

Current turnover: Group turnover exceeded £17.7m, operating profit £787,000

Martin Lawlor, chief executive of the Port of Blyth

“The port faces a variety of challenges on a day-to-day basis and there’s only one way to approach them … head on! One of the Port of Blyth’s key assets is the ability to adapt and react to the requirements of the clients and have the foresight to invest for the future.

“Over the last couple of years the port has lost one of its biggest clients, Rio Tinto Alcan, and renewables giant RES shelved plans to build a £300m biomass power station at Blyth, blamed partially on the Government’s lack of clarity on future UK energy policy.

“That said, the port has enjoyed record turnover of over £17m in 2013 and has many more projects in the pipeline for furtherment in the coming years. One of the main challenges the port faces is that as an organisation we’re very commercial and very hungry. This, coupled with the level of service we provide and focus on each client, keeps us very busy. The facilities the port has to offer are impressive, and this in turn creates large demand and this can be seen by the number of developments currently under way or in planning at Blyth. Present projects include working closely with the Northumberland development company Arch on the old Blyth Power Station site to try to bring that back to economic use, and looking at potential users of that site. As always the oil & gas and renewable energy markets are key focus areas for the port, and new projects include a major new marine fuels terminal and the conversion to biomass of Lynemouth power station.

“The port is in numerous negotiations at present and the North East will need to watch this space to see what develops over the coming months.”

Port of Tees

Size: 779 acre – 10.9m LAT

Date founded: Official opening in 1963 of Tees Dock, but port origin back to 18th century

Basic history: With origins of port activity dating back to the mid 1700s, the port has over centuries migrated from Yarm to Stockton, then Middlesbrough by the early 20th Century, until Tees Dock officially was opened in 1963 by Sir William Worsley, Bt, Lord Lieutenant of the North Riding. Since this time the Port has grown, establishing new berths and new cargo handling capabilities and with, Hartlepool, is the fourth largest port in the UK measured by tonnage throughput

Employee numbers: More than 650 across both ports

Main activities: Bulk cargo, project cargo, containers, cargo ferries

Cargo volumes: The port of Tees and Hartlepool handled 37.7mtes for 2013

Main routes: Links to Finland, Russia, Sweden, Latvia, Lithuania, Germany, Denmark, Poland, The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Portugal and Felixstowe, Asia, USA, South America

Main customers: Conoco Phillips, Sabic, Lotte Chemicals, SSI, Vopak, Simon Storage, P&O Ferries, ASDA, Tesco & Taylors of Harrogate

Turnover: £135m turnover across the business

David Robinson, chief executive of PD Ports, said: “The Port of Tees and Hartlepool is the region’s biggest port, supporting the major businesses within the industrial heartland of the Tees Valley and beyond into the North of England and Scotland.

“Our challenges are two-fold. Firstly, to work with the major industrial companies within the region to provide the port infrastructure that they require to support the development and expansion of their businesses.

“Secondly, by utilising the existing and future infrastructure of the port to attract new cargo flows which either originate or are destined for the region, but which currently flow through Southern ports.

“To meet these challenges, we are currently engaged in a significant investment to upgrade the quay facilities in Tees Dock in response to customer demand across a number of sectors.

“This will support the projected increase in slab steel exports from SSI, as well as providing the ability to handle imports of biomass, a sector in which MGT Power’s proposed 300MW power station project at Teesport is moving towards commencement.

“The £17m investment we made in our container terminal infrastructure in 2012 has provided us with the capacity to deliver a 27% increase in volumes in the first half of the year, and the subsequent investment this year in our new intermodal rail terminal should deliver continued growth in this competitive market.

“Our port facilities are ideally placed to attract further investments in the energy and portcentric logistics sectors. Such investments demonstrate our commitment to improve the region’s infrastructure base, and to safeguard and create the long-term jobs which rely on the strong manufacturing and logistics sectors in the region.

“This is further shown by our relationship with the High Tide Foundation, which aims to improve education and employment opportunities for young people on Teesside.

“We are committed to working for the long term to deliver lasting economic benefits for the whole of the North East and beyond.”

Port of Sunderland

Size: The second largest municipally-owned port in the UK covers 264 acres with 40,000 sq m storage space. Deepest river berth is 8.8m.

Date founded: 1717

Basic history: Founded in 1717 by the River Wear Commissioners, then transformed by a succession of engineers altering the harbour’s natural state by the construction of civil engineering wonders. Obtained by the local authority in 1972 and port board established in 2010 alongside the city’s Economic Masterplan

Employee numbers: 45 full-time employees.

Main activities: North Sea oil and gas, offshore renewable energy, subsea engineering support, bulk, project and unitised cargo handling, ship repair, marine engineering.

Cargo volumes: 593,383 tonnes passed through the port in 2013/14.

Routes: Centrally located in Scandanavian and Continental sea routes.

Major customer names: EON and DeepOcean

Current turnover and profit: After a number of years of deficit, the port has now been in profit for the past three financial years.

Matthew Hunt, port director, said: “Until recently, Port of Sunderland was one of the city’s forgotten assets – the waters of the Wear and swathes of land at the port were under-utilised.

“However, in 2010, with the launch of the Sunderland Economic Masterplan, produced by Sunderland City Council to lay a blueprint for the growth of the city economy, the port was highlighted as an area of the city presenting a genuine opportunity for growth and development. The plan outlined a commitment to help the port realise its vast potential, and to make strategic investment to foster growth.

“Though we are less than four years into the council’s ambitious plan, we are already seeing a real step change, thanks to the hard work of the team here and the support we have had from the council and the port board. We’re attracting huge cargo vessels, research and survey ships, product tankers and offshore supply and construction vessels and have taken steps to prepare the ground for private investment too.

“Port of Sunderland is ideally situated to exploit opportunities in renewables; with close proximity to Dogger Bank, and we’re excited about the prospect of growing the port’s presence in this field.

“For the Port of Sunderland, it’s paramount to exploit our natural strengths.

“As well as being ideally placed for the move to renewables, we also boast great road, rail and air links for transporting cargo, and this is set to improve with the development of a strategic corridor.

“We recognised that it wouldn’t be plain sailing to cement ourselves as a leading port in such competitive sectors, so we have developed a very clear strategy for the development of the port. Already, a huge amount of work has gone into making strategic acquisitions of property on the site, as well as demolition of redundant and disused buildings to remove obstacles and clear swathes of land that will allow us to offer a flexible solution for investors. We have also invested in our facilities.

“Over the past few years, we have significantly bolstered our cargo handling capabilities with the purchase of two cranes, one of which is a heavy-lift, both of which have already proven to be shrewd investments and are making a significant difference to the offer we are able to present to the market.”


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